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Topics In the News
The Real IRS Scandal
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 06/08/13
Last updated on: 06/08/13
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Rep. Jim McDermott challenges right-wing groups.

Much has been made of the alleged targeting of conservative religious and political groups by the Internal Revenue Service for scrutiny in response to their applications for tax-exempt status as "social welfare" organizations. But the real scandal is not that their applications were scrutinized, but that these political organizations, including the National Organization for Marriage, were in fact granted tax-exempt status. By granting these groups tax-exempt status, the IRS has allowed them to launder money and to force American taxpayers to subsidize their political activities.

In a Congressional hearing on June 4, 2013, representatives of Tea Party groups and the National Organization for Marriage, all of whom use the money they raise to finance political campaigns, played the familiar role they assume of victims, whining that they were mistreated because they had to answer questions before they were granted the tax-exempt status they sought. But, as David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement has observed, "A tax exemption is not a right, it's a privilege, and most of the Tea Party groups claiming they are promoting "social welfare"--which the laws says has to be your primary purpose for the tax-exemption--are lying."

At least two Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee challenged the notion that these groups have been victimized by the IRS and questioned whether they deserve tax-exempt status.

Representative Jim McDermott of Washington observed during the hearing, "As I listen to this discussion, I'd like to remind everyone what we are talking about here. None of your organizations were kept from organizing or silenced. We are talking about whether or not the American taxpayers would subsidize your work. We are talking about a tax break."

"Each of your groups is highly political," McDermott continued. "From opposing the President's healthcare reform, to abortion restrictions, to gay marriage, you're all entrenched in some of the most controversial political issues in this country--and with your applications you are asking the American public to pay for that work. Many of you host and endorse candidates. The line between permitted political activity and non-permitted political activity can be very fine, and it's important that tax payers know which side you fall on."

Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon also took to task John C. Eastman, Chairman of the National Organization for Marriage both at the hearing and, afterward, in an article in the Huffington Post entitled "Let's Stop This Charade".

Arguing that Congress should change the law so that groups engaged in political activity actually have to disclose their donors, Representative Blumenauer pointed out that last year "internal National Organization for Marriage (NOM) strategy documents were leaked, stating that the organization seeks 'to drive a wedge between gays and blacks' by promoting 'African American spokespeople for marriage,' thus provoking same-sex marriage supporters into 'denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots,' and 'to interrupt the assimilation' of Latinos into 'dominant Anglo culture' by making the stance against same-sex marriage 'a key badge of Latino identity.'" He then asked, "Does this sound like social welfare to you?"

"Social welfare organizations should work in the public interest--not to divide, exploit, and conquer."

When Representative Blumenauer made this point at the hearing, Eastman angrily responded, "To say that defending traditional marriage doesn't qualify for defense of the public good is beyond preposterous."

In the article, the Congressman tells Eastman that "it is the denial of my constituents, and all Americans, the right to marry the person they love that is preposterous. To exploit racial and religious differences so you can fundraise for and enforce your specific worldview is preposterous."

He adds, "your right to be preposterous should not extend to taking political positions under the guise of a social welfare organization, raising money and campaigning."

The National Organization has been incredibly secretive about its donors. Most observers suspect that their donors consist largely of the Roman Catholic Church and a few individuals donating at the behest of the Roman Catholic and Mormon Churches. If so, this means that these donors not only enjoy secrecy, but also that the National Organization for Marriage is laundering money donated to the Roman Catholic Church into political campaigns.

Those of us who donate to political campaigns in favor of same-sex marriage or to political groups advocating for same-sex marriage do not receive tax deductions. However, those opposed to same-sex marriage to donate to Churches and to organizations like the National Organization for Marriage are able to deduct their contributions from their taxes.

In other words, because organizations like the National Organization for Marriage have conned the IRS into granting them tax-exempt status, along with politically active churches, we are subsidizing the campaign against our own rights even as we also have to fund the campaign to secure equal rights.

That is the real scandal.

In the video below, Representative McDermott questions whether the so-called "victims" of the IRS are victims at all.

In the audiofile below, courtesy of Jeremy Hooper at Good As You, Congressman Blumenauer speaks at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing.

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